Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

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October 8th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Faith and the City

As many of you know, last Friday I preached at Temple Shaaray Tefila.  The synagogue was extremely hospitable to me and to the many church members who attended their Shabat service.  Rabbi Jonathan Stein is a wonderful, welcoming fellow.  Everyone with whom I have talked about the worship service found it moving, challenging (as it always is to worship with a community that is not your own) and fascinating.  I will never forget listening to their cantors sing those hauntingly beautiful psalms in Hebrew.

It was a learning experience for me on many levels.

After the service and the reception, I was standing in front of the synagogue with my wife, Amy, and two other church members.  I had forgotten to remove the yarmulke (or kipa)—the small cap that covers the back of one’s head—that I had put on before entering the sanctuary.

While standing there, with my back to the southbound traffic on the sidewalk, displaying the cap that I had forgotten about, a man approached our group, quickly pivoted into me, punched me in the side, and (with a curse) sped away into the crowd.

I was not harmed (sometimes being the size of an offensive tackle has its upside), just shaken.

I don’t imagine that I will ever truly know the man’s motivation.  He might have been intoxicated.  He might suffer from a mental illness.  Perhaps both.  I can’t be sure.  What I can say is that I and those around me had the distinct impression (because I was wearing the kipa, because we were standing in front of the synagogue) that we had just been given a small taste, the tiniest taste imaginable, of what it is like to experience anti-Semitism.

We all know that conflicts between the various religious faiths are nothing short of a global crisis, threatening people’s freedoms, people’s livelihoods and people’s lives.  We also know (because we experience it—every single day—at work, at school, and yes, on the sidewalks of this city) that these conflicts are a local issue too—an inescapable issue for all of us.

This week at the 9:30 a.m. service in Kirkland Chapel, Charlene Han Powell will be preaching about Christians and interfaith matters.  Then, at 11:00 a.m., we will be welcoming the congregation of Temple Shaaray Tefila and Rabbi Jonathan Stein.  Rabbi Stein will deliver the sermon.

I hope you can make it.  I pray that this service might be, in some small, local, face-to-face way, our wedge against the tide of intolerance.

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  • Laura FissingerNo Gravatar

    I was exceptionally happy listening to Rabbi Jonathan Stein preach at FAPC this past Sunday. Even more uplifting was the sight of you, Rev. Scott, standing side-by-side with Rabbi Stein. The warmth and rapport that’s grown between the two of you was obvious — and contagious. I am reminded of the many quotes out there nudging all of us to remember that God is bigger than we can imagine, and so is the scope and frequency of His miracles. Thank you for a Sunday brimming with reminders.